Prolific writer/artist Jeffrey Brown specializes in exploring the intricacies of human relationships…and also lovingly dissecting the popular culture of the 1980s with his Star Wars tie-in parodies and of course his “original” creations The Incredible Change-Bots, chronicling the destructive non-adventures of Shootertron, Balls (he’s a golf cart) and other refugees of the planet Electronocybercircuitron wreaking havoc on our world.
It sometimes makes more sense than certain recent sequels, just saying.
Brown spoke with us recently about his most recent volume, Incredible Change Bots Two Point Something Something, from Top Shelf. It’s an extensive, extensive compilation of all manner of Change-Bots miscellany – including things Brown himself forgot existed – ranging from short stories to never-before-seen designs and Change-Bots merchandise the world was cruelly denied.
Newsarama talked to Brown about putting this book together, robot love (literally) and what might happen now that the Change-Bots’ publisher Top Shelf is owned by IDW, who puts out the comics featuring those other transforming robots…no, not the Gobots. The other other ones.
Newsarama: Jeff – for our readers, could you explain just what this new Change-Bots book constitutes?
Jeffrey Brown: This book contains pretty much all the extra Change-Bots material I drew over the years. There’s short stories that appeared in places like Wizard Magazine or on Comic Book Resources, artwork I made for readers who joined the fan club, material from mini-comics I put together and gave out at Free Comic Book Days, artwork I created for the art show I had at Scott Eder Gallery when book two came out… there’s also the first images from my sketchbooks and designs for unproduced toys.
It’s almost all been published before, but sometimes in such limited quantities that most people have probably only seen a little bit of it.
Nrama:What was the biggest challenge in compiling this collection? Did you ever find yourself saying, "I didn't remember doing that?" or "Was I drunk?"
Brown: Organizing it was a little difficult, because I tried to give the book a little bit of an arc - it starts with the Change-Bots’ home planet Electronocybercircuitron and then continues with material that fits in and around the storyline of the first two Change-Bots books.
The biggest surprise was just how much material I had, even considering that it was created over a period of seven or eight years. There’s a few things I’d forgotten about, even looking at the book now - it was actually complied a couple years ago, but got put on hold so I could get some other projects out first.
Nrama: What's particularly interesting about this book is that it offers the chance to learn more about the Change-Bots than any sane person could ever possibly want to know. Exactly how much time do you spend thinking about them anyway, and should we be worried?
Brown: I’ve actually weaned myself off of thinking about them quite so much, to the point where I don’t even remember everything I’ve written about them. Maybe we should be worried about that - I’m getting old!
Nrama: This contains a lot of material for the Official Change-Bots Fan Club. Hey, who's the Vice-President of that again?
Brown: Pen Ward, creator of Adventure Time, is VP by virtue of being the second person to join - the only reason he wasn’t first is because someone who got a review copy before the book came out joined first. The honor is all mine, I’ve been a fan of Adventure Time since I first saw the original short on YouTube.
Nrama: I'm curious as to the origins of "Young Rust," as it answers questions that I never thought to ask, or was too terrified by '80s standards of human decency to contemplate. [sighs] I'm just a prude.
Brown: Mature readers may be familiar with my autobiographical comics, which often break down a romantic relationship into a collection of moments told through one page snippets.I had the idea of telling the love story of Honkytonk and Siren in that format, and the title and cover page come from the 1970 first issue of the underground comic book Young Lust.
Having lived through the ‘80. I can tell you that any standard of human decency was an illusion.
Nrama: Incredible Change-Bots has been published for awhile now by Top Shelf, and they recently announced their acquisiton by IDW Publishing...what say you of this?
Brown: I think it’s great - Top Shelf will be able to maintain its identity, perhaps with a more narrowly focused output, but with the marketing and sales power of IDW. Meaning that more people should be getting introduced to the books Top Shelf puts out, as well as their extensive back catalogue.
Nrama: That was really just an excuse to ask: Will the Change-Bots meet the actual Transformers? Because that could happen now. Also, by that logic, the X-Men could cross over with Star Wars, the Muppets, and Modern Family.
Brown: The licensing might get too complicated for the Transformers and Change-Bots to meet, but I’m not opposed to seeing that happen! I think there should definitely be an X-Muppets movie.
Nrama: Describe your most favorite weird episode or comic of the Transformers from any media, in excruciating detail.
Brown: Hm, I’d need to think about that. The weirdest thing to me is that there’s only like a dozen humans in the original cartoons, and eleven of them are wearing that blue jeans/khaki shirt/yellow hard hat outfit.
Nrama: With Microwave, Soupy and Popper you really hit a new...um, high in objects that are secretly Change-Bots. What are some Change-Bot ideas you have actually rejected? Do we even want to know?
Brown: I haven’t really rejected any ideas, I try to stuff absolutely everything into the books. The only thing I’ve rejected so far is overly complicated plotlines and carefully orchestrated subplots for book three, because I think the Change-Bots work best when the story is simple and doesn’t always make sense.
Nrama: What do you feel is the biggest difficulty in being a robot in disguise on Earth? And really, on some level, are we not all robots in disguise?
Brown: I think the hardest thing would be seeing all those stupid, non-sentient robots that don’t have to wear disguises. They’re clearly inferior, why do they get to just walk around all willy-nilly without a care in the world? And no, we are not actually robots. At least, I’m not. Wait a minute…
Nrama: What’s next for you?
Brown: I’ve finished yet more Star Wars books which will come out this year, and have moved in a totally different direction from all the sci-fi to work on a middle grade series called Lucy & Andy Neanderthal’, which I want to be based more on science than the usual caveman media kids see.
Nrama: Anything else you'd like to talk about we haven't discussed yet?
Brown: Just the screenplay I’m working on that will hopefully be directed by Michael Bay, which will naturally lead to me getting to write a Transformers movie.
It’s called Get In and it’s basically a two hour car chase with a guy on the run, and his car keeps crashing or getting blown up, and every time someone else comes out of nowhere and skids to a halt right in front of him and says “Get in!” And he just keeps getting in these cars and getting chased and stuff gets blown up.
I haven’t figured out the ending yet but it’s going to be awesome, I’m pretty sure.